I would like to enter the USA on the Visa Waiver programme, and after a week of stay change over to a J-1 visa (i.e., have a week of holidays before I begin my academic exchange).

Is this possible without leaving and re-entering the U.S.?

Edit: it seems in other threads that some people have left and re-entered, that there seems to be a 30-grace period for early entry of J-1 holders, and that conversion from one visa to another is a lengthy process. Has anyone made any experience with these options?

  • Very helpful, thank you. Especially: "You may not arrive more than 30 days before the program start date shown on your DS-2019. Upon completion of your exchange program, you have a grace period of 30 days to depart the United States." (via j1visa.state.gov/participants/common-questions) Seems to suggest I can enter the U.S. on the grace period...? Still interested to hear thoughts on my specific case
    – Scrat
    Jan 16 '18 at 10:20

You are not allowed to do a Change of Status (change to another nonimmigrant status inside the US) if you are in the US on the Visa Waiver Program. (Plus, Change of Status, even when allowed, takes months anyway.)

You can already enter on your J-1 visa up to 30 days before your program starts.

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